Advocates for Residents with Disabilities Applaud Effort to Boost Caregivers’ Earnings

By Jon Hurdle

February 18, 2020

Paul Blaustein wakes at 4 a.m. every day to be ready to drive an hour to his disabled son’s apartment if the person who takes care of him in the early mornings can’t make it.

Blaustein, who is chairman of the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, told the State Senate’s Budget and Appropriations Committee on Thursday that he lives in fear that there won’t be a carer available for his 42-year-old son — who needs help getting out of bed, washing, dressing and brushing his teeth — because of a severe shortage of those workers, known as direct support professionals (DSPs), statewide.

“Almost every night I have the same nightmare that my son and others will awake without a DSP to make sure they are OK,” he told the panel during a hearing on a bill that would provide more state money for the workers.

Advocates say there are about 30% fewer DSPs than needed because their low pay rates — funded by the state — have driven many into higher-paying jobs in the retail or logistics industries, leaving agencies with hard-to-fill positions. DSPs make an average starting salary of $12 an hour.